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Napa Travel: Luxury Hotels, Napa Style

Wine country delivers low-key opulence with character

Daniel Sogg
Posted: June 29, 2004

The early-evening views at Auberge du Soleil have long been one of the hotel's signature attractions.
  Napa Valley Travel Guide  
  Fine Dining  
  Casual Dining  

In Napa, luxury means savoring the benefits of being in America's greatest wine region. The first consideration for hotels is a special location. This means a prime position overlooking the expansive vineyards carpeting the valley, or one that provides easy access to the region's wares while avoiding the steady hum of the highway. Wine Spectator has featured six standout hotels, from Carneros, south of the city of Napa, north to Calistoga. Each boasts a superb property that integrates seamlessly with the surroundings and fosters a sense of privacy. By virtue of privileged sites and deft designs, they all offer the beauty and serenity sought on a wine country getaway.

The range of services at these top hotels exceeds the expectations most guests bring to a wine and food destination. Looking for an appointment at a favorite boutique estate, usually closed to the public? Or for a reservation at a restaurant typically booked well in advance? The concierges might secure entrée, or at worst recommend appealing alternatives. Spas are now practically standard at top Napa hotels and, like a menu built around local ingredients, treatments usually employ an assortment of grape products.

Traditionally, Napa's leading hotels have offered easygoing sophistication, with spacious accommodations and bright, sunny decors that suit farming country. While that's still true, never before have travelers to Napa had such an intriguing range of aesthetic options. The Milliken Creek Inn echoes Southeast Asia; the just-opened Calistoga Ranch could settle into Idaho or Montana; and the Carneros Inn has back-to-the-future flair, with retro farmhouse exteriors and slick modern comfort inside.

Decor and furnishings at these newer hotels raise the bar for longtime Napa destinations Meadowood and Auberge du Soleil. Both are undergoing renovations that should bring all the rooms up to the standard appropriate to these spectacular properties.

Diverse as it is, the Napa region has a number of other excellent hotels, such as the Inn at Southbridge in downtown St. Helena; La Residence, Vintage Inn and Villagio in Yountville; and Silverado in Napa. But the hotels we've listed offer the most compelling combination of service, site and decor. If you are planning to visit during the Napa Valley Wine Auction (in June) or at harvest, be sure to reserve months in advance. And whether your preference is for something traditional or leans toward the exotic, Napa can satisfy.

Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford
Map this and nearby establishments
Telephone (707) 963-1211
Web site www.aubergedusoleil.com
Rooms 50
Suites 19
Rates $525-$3,200
All it takes is one sunset. One sunset, or even an afternoon drink, on the Auberge deck, with its stunning views of the neighboring hills and across the valley, makes clear the longstanding allure of this property. Lush, 33-acre grounds, dotted with olive trees and more than 100 modern sculptures, evoke the hills of Provence. The property contains a tennis court, pool and roomy workout facility, and a wonderfully serene spa that is arguably Napa's loveliest. Most rooms are at least 500 square feet, with terra cotta tile floors and a palette of sunny tones. The suites are ample, each with a private patio, separate living room, a kitchen space (with a complimentary half-bottle of LBV Port) and a vanity.

Calistoga Ranch
580 Lommel Road, Calistoga
Map this and nearby establishments
Telephone (800) 942-4220 or (707) 254-2800
Web site www.calistogaranch.com
Rooms 46
Suites 1
Rates $525-$4,500
Scheduled for completion by June, Calistoga Ranch should be a new favorite of upscale travelers to Napa. The rugged, 157-acre spread, nestled against forested, boulder-strewn hills, evokes the isolation of western ranch country, but the 1.5-acre Cabernet vineyard at the entrance underscores its true location. A placid lake feeds a creek that gurgles through the property, and underground waters supply a spa offering a full range of treatments. Guests reside in 1,200-square-foot private lodges constructed of cedar, stone and copper, with space divided evenly among a mahogany deck with retractable roof, an airy cream-toned living area and the sleeping quarters. Those longing for exercise can wander 4 miles of trails.

Carneros Inn
4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa
Map this and nearby establishments
Telephone (707) 299-4900
Web site www.thecarnerosinn.com
Rooms 86
Suites 10
Rates $375-$1,200
California wine country's latest take on agri-chic, situated a 10-minute drive south of the city of Napa, eases into bucolic Carneros. The decor melds cultivated rusticity outside -- corrugated metal roofs, deck chairs built of recycled wooden milk crates -- with sleek, modern interiors -- Brazilian cherry floors and gauzy, cream-colored curtains. The combination works nicely with the neighboring properties -- an organic vineyard and a 4-H farm with cows lolling in the field. The inn's fine dining restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two other restaurants are under construction. Guests can relax either in the spa or by the superb vanishing-edge pool overlooking the vineyards and distant hills.

Harvest Inn
1 Main St., St. Helena
Map this and nearby establishments
Telephone (707) 963-9463
Web site www.harvestinn.com
Rooms 51
Suites 3
Rates $235-$650
Harvest Inn has the serene charm of a Tudor country house leavened with a dash of whimsy. It borders St. Helena Highway, on the southern edge of St. Helena, but the lovely 8-acre grounds, covered with old pines, fruit trees and a floral explosion of tulips and daffodils, foster serene privacy. The accommodations, many with vaulted 18-foot ceilings, are very lord of the manor, nearly 500 square feet, with cool, masculine oak tones throughout. Brick paths wind throughout the property, and sturdy wood-burning brick fireplaces add weight and warmth to nearly all the rooms. There are two pools, and almost half the rooms have postcard views of the neighboring Cabernet vineyard.

900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena
Map this and nearby establishments
Telephone (707) 963-3646
Web site www.meadowood.com
Rooms 45
Suites 40
Rates $470-$3,725
Ever since it began hosting the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1981, Meadowood has held a prominent position in the life of the valley. The resort is also a working country club, with 950 members who come for its nine-hole golf course, two pools, spa and croquet course. The impressive 250-acre property lies up an oak-lined road half a mile off the Silverado Trail, in a tranquil valley framed by dense oak forests and rocky hills. Accommodations aim for understated country charm. Ongoing projects include DSL installation and outfitting the rooms with new, king-size beds. While the fine dining restaurant has been closed since last June, the Grill offers an outstanding selection of Napa wines.

Milliken Creek Inn
1815 Silverado Trail, Napa
Map this and nearby establishments
Telephone (707) 255-1197
Web site www.millikencreekinn.com
Rooms 12
Suites 7
Rates $325-$650
Only a subtle sign with a script "M" marks the entrance to the Milliken Creek Inn, along a bend of the Silverado Trail. But it would be a shame to overlook this outstanding property tucked away alongside the Napa River. An arborist owned the land in the first quarter of the 20th century, so it's a horticulturist's dream of exotic species such as Japanese maple and deodar cedar. The current owners embraced the exotic, planting seven types of bamboo, ferns and palms. The 1857 carriage house features delightful 19th century imperfections such as slightly warped tiger oak floors. Spacious, impeccable rooms in sage and khaki tones with high-backed rattan chairs and palm leaf overhead fans reflect an elegant, English colonial sensibility. Wines from top-flight producers such as Swanson and Silver Oak are poured gratis for guests most evenings.


Indian Springs Resort
1712 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga
Telephone (707) 942-4913
Fax (707) 942-4919
Website www.indianspringscalistoga.com
Cottages 17 of varying size and configuration
Rates $185 to $550

With its whitewashed bungalows and palm trees, Indian Springs, which sprawls over 16 acres, looks more like a Los Angeles movie set circa 1940 than a modern-day Calistoga spa. Its three (capped) geysers gush boiling mineral water that is used to heat the Olympic-sized pool -- a plus for serious swimmers -- as well as its other aquatic spa elements. Mud baths, a Calistoga staple, are 100 percent volcanic ash dug on the property. The bungalow interiors evoke a clean, simple beach-house atmosphere. All of them have kitchens or kitchenettes. Children are welcome at this family-oriented locale, where each cottage sports an outdoor hammock and barbecue. Telephone addicts should bring their own cell phones, however, as rooms are phone-free. (6/6/2001)

Mount View Hotel
1457 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga
Telephone (707) 942-6877
Fax (707) 942-6904
Website www.mountviewhotel.com
Rooms 29
Suites 3
Rates $157 to $325

The Mount View Hotel is spare and simple, yet still offers a certain warmth and elegance. It doubles as a full-service spa and is also home to one of Calistoga's better restaurants -- Catahoula. While rooms are comfortable, some can be described as minuscule, with "wall" views. Others, however, are more sizable and have lovely vistas. A pointed inquiry regarding room selection prior to making reservations is advisable here. (6/6/2001)

Silver Rose Inn and Spa
351 Rosedale Road, Calistoga
Telephone (800) 995-9381 or (707) 942-9581
Fax (707) 942-0841
Website www.silverrose.com
Rooms 20
Suites 1
Rates weekdays, $165 to $265; weekends $195 to $295

Located less than a mile from downtown Calistoga, the Silver Rose Inn and Spa offers a truly bucolic vision of Napa Valley. Most rooms are spacious, with generous views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains. With its manicured gardens, two tennis courts, pitching and putting green, two Jacuzzis and two swimming pools (one in the shape of a wine bottle), as well as its spa facilities, the Silver Rose presents a seductive picture for those looking for an elegant, peaceful retreat. Vineyards lap up to the edge of the inn, and the sound of garden-side fountains creates a soothing effect. Maybe that's why children under 15 are discouraged from accompanying their parents here. (6/6/2001)

El Bonita Motel
195 Main St., St. Helena
Telephone (800) 541-3284 or (707) 963-3216
Fax (707) 963-8838
Website www.elbonita.co
Rooms 41
Suites 6
Rates $115 to $279, call ahead as rates vary according to season

El Bonita is an upgraded 1950s-style motel on St. Helena's main drag. Rooms in the original roadside wing are small but tastefully furnished in a simple wine country theme. El Bonita has a small roadside pool, but traffic can be noisy here. Newer, larger rooms are set back farther from the road and are thus quieter; the hotel also has balconies or terraces facing away from the highway. (6/6/2001)

Forest Manor
415 Cold Springs Road, Angwin
Telephone (800) 788-0364 or (707) 965-3538
Fax (707) 965-1962
Website www.forestmanorbandb.com
Suites 7
Rates $175 to $395

This 7,000-square-foot Tudor mansion is comfortably hidden, as its name suggests, in a forest high up on Howell Mountain. A 6.5-mile drive up the slope from the Silverado Trail finds a traveler deep in a peaceful, remote wooded grove on a 20-acre property that borders the famous Bancroft Ranch vineyard. Suites are spacious, elegant and private, and decorated in an imaginative, eclectic selection of themes ranging from African motifs to English garden floral patterns. At day's end, the 53-foot-long pool looks particularly enticing. Nearby trails offers fine hiking and mountain biking. Forest Manor keeps a flotilla of high-tech mountain bikes for rent by adventurous guests. (6/6/2001)

Harvest Inn
1 Main St., St. Helena
Telephone (800) 950-8466 or (707) 963-9463
Fax (707) 963-4402
Website www.harvestinn.com
Rooms 55
Suites 3
Rates $240 to $675

The Harvest Inn offers a quaint collection of English Tudor cottages set on a 14-acre vineyard. The surrounding landscaped gardens create a serene atmosphere for this retreat, despite the inn's proximity to Route 29. Interior design is eclectic, but still elegant and comfortable. Rooms are spacious, and most have private terraces. Cool off in one of Harvest Inn's two swimming pools in the afternoon or try a Jacuzzi by starlight. Pools and hot tubs are open 24 hours. (6/6/2001)

Hotel St. Helena
1309 Main St., St. Helena
Telephone (707) 963-4388
Fax (707) 963-5402
Website www.hotelsthelena.com
Rooms 18 (14 with private bath; 4 with shared bath)
Suites 1
Rates $165 to $375, call ahead as rates vary according to season

Located in downtown St. Helena, this hotel is conveniently placed for easy access to restaurants and shops. Rooms are cozy and charmingly arranged in a casual, country design. Unfortunately, some of the rooms share baths, and unlike most of the hotels and B&Bs in the area, Hotel St. Helena does not have a pool. (6/6/2001)

The Ink House
1575 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena
Telephone (707) 963-3890
Fax (707) 968-0739
Website www.inkhouse.com
Rooms 7
Rates $117 to $225

This lovely Victorian mansion, built 114 years ago by a gentleman named Theron Ink, is furnished appropriately with restored antiques. Striking 360-degree views of the valley can be enjoyed from The Ink House's rooftop cupola. But the stairway is steep, and stair-challenged travelers should consider staying elsewhere. There is no swimming pool, but there is a billiards table in a cool old root cellar. Full breakfast includes fresh-baked breads as well as original touches like artichoke frittatas and mango butter. (6/6/2001)

The Inn at Southbridge
1020 Main St., St. Helena
Telephone (800) 520-6800 or (707) 967-9400
Fax (707) 967-9486
Website www.slh.com/pages/s/stuinna.html
Rooms 20
Suites 1
Rates Weekdays, $275 to $535; weekends, $375 to $535; (subject to change seasonally)

Located at the entrance to downtown St. Helena, The Inn at Southbridge projects a rustic elegance with a touch of Italian country style. The inn's main asset is its central location within walking distance of many fine restaurants, shops and even a few wineries. Some rooms offer tranquil views of the mountains to the east, but others face a busy courtyard or a busier Route 29 -- something even double-thick windowpanes can't remedy. Rooms are large, with real wood fireplaces, and painted in light, pastel colors. Next door is Health Spa Napa Valley (707-967-8800), which is open to the public as well as to Southbridge guests. In addition to traditional spa treatments, Health Spa Napa Valley offers a special wine country twist -- grapeseed-oil body massages. (6/6/2001)

Sunny Acres Bed & Breakfast
397 Main St., St. Helena
Telephone (707) 963-2826
Fax (707) 963-5105
Rooms 3
Rates $195

Past meets present in this meticulously restored Victorian home, built in 1879 by Napa Valley wine pioneer Dr. George Belden Crane. Guests can sit on the original house sofa while gazing at Crane family photographs and other real-life artifacts, including the good doctor's piano. Sunny Acres is also a working vineyard, surrounded by 26 acres originally planted by Crane and purchased by the Salvestrin family in 1932. (6/6/2001)

Vineyard Country Inn
201 Main St., St. Helena
Telephone (707) 963-1000
Fax (707) 963-1794
Website www.vineyardcountryinn.com
Rooms 21
Rates $175-$295

Set at the edge of an 8-acre vineyard planted to old Zinfandel, the Vineyard Country Inn is, alas, also close to Route 29. But most rooms -- really suites, with fireplaces, balconies and living rooms -- face the vineyard, not the street. A cozy pool and Jacuzzi are also set back discreetly, as is the poolside breakfast room. This inn offers simple, breezy elegance. (6/6/2001)

Wine Country Inn
1152 Lodi Lane, St. Helena
Telephone (707) 963-7077
Fax (707) 963-9018
Website www.winecountryinn.com
Rooms 21
Suites 3
Rates Vary by season

Surrounded by olive groves and striking vineyard views, the Wine Country Inn benefits from close proximity to town yet boasts a quiet, rural setting. Set on 3 acres, the inn offers 24 attractive New World farmhouse-inspired rooms, public patios, strolling gardens and a vineyard-side swimming pool. Travelers will discover here a refreshing respite from the demands of wine touring. (6/6/2001)

Maison Fleurie
6529 Yount St., Yountville
Telephone (707) 944-2056
Fax (707) 944-9342
Website www.foursisters.com/maison.html
Rooms 13
Rates $120 to $275

As the name implies, the grounds surrounding this charming antique brick structure and its auxiliary buildings are graced with brightly hued flowers. Rooms are furnished tastefully in a country colonial style. Some are quite large and some fairly cozy; all are pretty and quaint. The inn features imaginatively set public spaces -- both indoors and outdoors -- including a large pool and a Jacuzzi. Maison Fleurie is within walking distance of some of the region's best eating establishments, including The French Laundry and Bistro Jeanty. (6/6/2001)

Napa Valley Lodge
2230 Madison St., Yountville
Telephone (800) 368-2468 or (707) 944-2468
Fax (707) 944-9362
Website www.woodsidehotels.com/napa/napa_home.htm
Rooms 55
Suites 5
Rates $252 to $445

This large but still charming hotel at the northern edge of Yountville presents a contemporary country profile. All rooms have balconies or patios with vineyard and mountain views. It's close to Route 29 but remains somewhat sequestered, and features manicured gardens surrounding the pool and spa area. A great place to enjoy a poolside breakfast. (6/6/2001)

Rancho Caymus
1140 Rutherford Cross Road, Rutherford
Telephone (800) 845-1777
Fax (707) 963-5387
Website www.ranchocaymus.com
Rooms 26
Rates Vary by season

Rancho Caymus sports a Western/Spanish theme in its decor, which is rich in sepia and desert tones. The courtyard gardens provide a calming atmosphere, although there is no pool. (6/6/2001)

Vintage Inn
6541 Washington St., Yountville
Telephone (800) 351-1133 or (707) 945-4545
Fax (707) 944-1617
Website www.VintageInn.com
Rooms 80
Suites 8
Rates $310 to $550

The Vintage Inn, with its spare yet stylish interiors, lap pool and proximity to Yountville's numerous fine eating establishments, is a comfortable, convenient home base for a Napa tour. (6/6/2001)

Embassy Suites
1075 California Blvd., Napa
Telephone (800) EMBASSY or (707) 253-9540
Fax (707) 253-9202
Website www.embassynapa.com
Suites 205
Rates Vary by season

Formerly known as the Inn at Napa Valley, this large hotel, which caters to a business clientele, nevertheless manages to retain a certain intimacy, with its eclectic combination of influences from the Western United States, France and Tuscany. The serene inner courtyard offers fountains, swans and even a garden of kitchen herbs. All of the identical two-room suites are designed in French country style. Two swimming pools -- a larger one indoors and a smaller one in the courtyard -- along with a Jacuzzi, complete the picture. (6/6/2001)

La Residence
4066 St. Helena Hwy. N., Napa
Telephone (707) 253-0337
Fax (707) 253-0382
Website www.LaResidence.com
Rooms 15
Suites 5
Rates $225 to $350

This decidedly rural oasis lies at the edge of Napa city, where the vineyards meet urban sprawl. Exquisitely conceived, the French country elegance of La Residence is somewhat compromised by the steady stream of traffic on nearby Route 29. It nonetheless exudes wine country charm, complete with its own little vineyard on the grounds. Tastefully and imaginatively appointed rooms and suites are set among four buildings, the oldest of which was built in 1870. French and English pine antiques set a refined yet cheerful Old World tone. There is also a pool and a large, outdoor Jacuzzi. (6/6/2001)

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